Bathrooms are usually the rooms with the least storage space, especially if you live in a smaller apartment or condominium. There are many budget-friendly storage racks and shelving units out there, but most of them are either elaborate and expensive or made out of weak materials that break over time.
We set out to create a good in-between option—a storage solution that's stronger, more aesthetically pleasing, and easier to customize than what you typically find in stores. We discovered that galvanized pipe fittings were the perfect solution: They won't bend or snap under weight, have a cool industrial look, and come in various sizes so you can customize the design based on the size of your space. You could also opt to use gas pipe fittings, which are darker in color.
What we created is a simple DIY bathroom shelf that you can design and build to your needs in just a couple of hours.
Let's get started!
Step 1: Plan pipe layout
The first thing you'll want to do is figure out how you want to design your shelf. There's a lot of room for flexibility here—depending on your space, you may want a longer bar, or multiple bars, to fit two bath towels. We wanted ours to hold a single hand towel, so we opted for a 10" pipe as our towel bar. We'd recommend measuring your wall space before you head to the hardware store so you have an idea of the length of pipe you need, as well what size board you want, if you're incorporating a shelf into your design as we did.
Lay out all of your pipe pieces to see how they'll fit together. Along with our 10" towel bar, we're using four flanges, two tees, two elbows, and six short fittings.
Before moving on, we recommend snapping a photo of your layout so you can reference it later (especially if you plan on painting your pipe).
Step 2: Clean and degrease pipe
Galvanized pipe usually has a greasy coating on it when you bring it home from the hardware store, which you'll want to clean off. Use a degreaser and a sponge to remove any grease.
We also want to paint some of our fittings, so in addition to cleaning, we roughed up the smooth parts of the pipes that we wanted to paint using sandpaper. When you're done degreasing and sanding, rinse the pipe and fittings and dry well.
Step 3: Paint (optional)
If you want to paint your pipes, now's the time to do it; if you're going to keep them natural, you can go ahead and skip to the next step.
Before picking up your brush, mask off the threads of the pipes and fittings you want to paint. We masked off the threads of the 2" joiner pieces and 10" towel bar with masking tape and then painted the middle sections of those seven pieces. Some paints require a coat of primer on bare metal, so check the label of the paint you plan to use. We used a primer and then two coats of latex enamel paint.
Let the paint dry completely before moving on to the next step. (Latex paint can dry as quickly as an hour, but we recommend waiting at least a couple for good measure.)
Note: If you're going to put a finish on your shelf, now's the time to do that. We used a one-by-eight board 22" long and painted on a clear, quick-dry urethane.
Step 4: Assemble pipe frame
Once your paint is dry, it's time to start assembling. Reference the photo you took of your layout in step one. Using gloves for this step can help you get a good grip to thread the pieces together snugly. You can also use pliers, just be sure to protect the painted areas with a rag.
Note: Some threads will still be exposed—that's normal.
Step 5: Mount board to top flanges
To mount the board to the flanges, use eight #12 x ¾" flathead wood screws. Use your work surface to mimic the wall you'll eventually mount the wall flanges to. Set the pipe frame down so the wall mounts are facing the table. Unless you want a gap at the back of the shelf, mount it so the back edge of the shelf is just shy of the backside of the vertical flanges.
Use a tape measure to center the board by making sure it sticks out the same amount on both sides of the pipe frame.
When you have your board where you want it, mark the screw holes with the tip of a screwdriver, then pre-drill using a 9/64" drill bit before fastening the frame to the shelf using #12 x ¾" flathead wood screws.
Step 6: Mount shelf to wall
Now your shelf is complete! The final step is mounting it to the wall. Using a level, mark the holes in the flanges where you want to mount the shelf. Ideally, you'll be able to drill into a wall stud. If not, use the appropriate drywall anchors.
Now, you have a functional, durable bathroom shelf and towel rack you can use to organize and beautify your bathroom space.
Check out our DIY bathroom storage tower and DIY shower caddy for more home organization projects; or, if you're looking for more projects that utilize pipe fittings, we recommend our DIY gas pipe storage solution or gas pipe firewood holder.